Friday, November 11, 2011

The Veterans History Project

My thanks to the many veterans who turned out today to work with the Texas Court Reporters Association, the San Antonio Bar Association, the Towers, and a group of lawyers so that the veterans’ stories could be collected as part of the Veterans History Project. The project will transcribe the stories—along with preserving audio recordings and the veterans’ photos, journals, letters, and other historic material—so that these documents become part of the permanent collection at the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center. The Project, found online at, is designed to make “accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.”

This weekend, San Antonio attorneys and court reporters will volunteer to work with veterans to collect stories of the major conflicts of the 20th and 21st centuries: World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War, the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts. Nationally, the VHP has collected more than 70,000 stories from veterans and civilian war workers who share their memories. After the VHP receives the transcribed interviews, its processing staff digitizes each transcript and places them online where they may be reviewed. Stories may be searched by conflict or era, branch of service, prisoner of war, and gender. Service location, unit or ship, or individual names may be searched, also.

The United States Congress created the VHP in 2000. Public Law 106-380 was sponsored by Representatives Ron Kind, Amo Houghton, and Steny Hoyer in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senators Max Cleland and Chuck Hagel in the U.S. Senate. The legislation received unanimous support and was signed into law by then-president Bill Clinton on October 27, 2000 with the hope that people for generations to come will have the opportunity and place to read about the real-life experiences of American servicemen and women.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Mystery Solved? The Life and Death of Vincent Van Gogh

Pulitzer prize-winning authors Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith have filled in the sketchy details of Vincent Van Gogh's life, art, and death in their newly-released book Van Gogh: The Life. CBS investigative reporters spoke with the authors about their literary works and those of Vincent Van Gogh:


Financial Peace of Mind: Feng Shui Your Assets

Seems like today if you are looking for peace of mind, our popular culture will quickly direct you to such sources as Zen meditation, rolfing, crystals, or some such mystical source.

A recent article in Forbes suggested several steps for achieving financial peace of mind via feng shui. These basic areas to consider included:

• Bones: The physical structure of your assets. Reorganize, consolidate, and/or close various accounts.

• Breath: How your accounts are arranged and the way your assets flow between them. Consider creating automatic arrangements between accounts.

• Head: The purpose of your money. Create a clear purpose for your money by creating new accounts or separating money from one account into another.

• Heart: How you personally feel about your money (e.g. confused, vigorous, tired). Research companies more in line with your personal philosophy to keep your accounts.

For more information on applying the principles of feng shui to assets, see Mindy Crary, Feng Shui Your Money, Forbes, Oct. 12, 2011.


New Tool Kit Unveiled to Protect Seniors from Con Artists

A new effort to educate seniors on how to protect them themselves from financial abuse and scams has been published by the National Council on Aging (NCOA).

The new toolkit – Savvy Savings Seniors: Steps to Avoid Scams - is produced in partnership with the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER), and the Bank of America Charitable Foundation.

The toolkit is the second in the Savvy Saving Seniors financial education series, following the release of a guide on money management skills earlier this year.

In addition to offering typical scam scenarios, the toolkit includes step-by-step instructions for professionals to facilitate a workshop with older clients, and a list of signs for caregivers and family members to look for when concerned about their loved one.

The Savvy Saving Seniors toolkits are part of a larger initiative between NCOA and the Bank of America Charitable Foundation to provide one-on-one financial assistance to over 1,200 older adults experiencing economic distress over the next year.

The National Council on Aging is a nonprofit service and advocacy organization headquartered in Washington, DC. NCOA’s mission is to improve the lives of millions of older adults, especially those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged. | |

The Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement is a nonprofit organization established in 1996 dedicated to the education and advocacy that will improve the long-term financial quality of life for women. As the only organization to focus exclusively on the unique financial challenges that women face, WISER supports women’s opportunities to secure adequate retirement income through research, workshops, and partnerships.


L'Oreal Heiress Placed Under Guardianship and Appeals

A French judge declared L’Oreal heiress, Liliane Bettencourt, incompetent and granted control of Bettencourt’s financial affairs to her only child, Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers, and grandsons, Jean-Victor and Nicolas. Here is the report from The Huffington Post:

See L’Oreal Heiress Bettencourt Under Family Guardianship, BBC News, Oct. 17, 2011; Danielle and Andy Mayoras, Europe's Richest Woman, Lilian Bettencourt, Declared Incompetent, Forbes, Oct. 17, 2011; Jessica Misener, L’OreaL’Oreal Heiress Liliane Bettencourt Loses Control of Her $23 Billion Fortune, Huffington Post, Oct. 18, 2011.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

What is an SNT?

What is a Special Needs Trust? Public benefits provide a safety net to people who are unable to provide for their own care and maintenance due to circumstances beyond their control, such as catastrophic accidents or illnesses. No one wants to be on public benefits. Most of the people who do depend on public benefit programs do so because they require long-term care and medical expenses. However, public benefits provide limited programs. Government funding is not limitless. These programs’ limits create a need to maximize recipients’ private funds while maintaining access to public benefits in order to improve the quality of life of disabled persons or their dependents.

Special Needs Trusts, aka Supplemental Needs Trusts, can be used when a person knows that he or she will become unable to continue the care and support of a dependant. The individual may be a parent of a disabled adult or child who is dependent upon the parent for financial support or care. Or, the person may be concerned that a spouse will be left destitute when that individual is no longer able to work and provide for the spouse. A Special Needs Trust enables qualification for public benefits while preserving assets for the use and benefit of others, such as spouses and disabled dependants.

Who needs a Special Needs Trust? People who have been injured or diagnosed with a chronic debilitating disease worry they will become dependent upon public benefits in order to live. A Special Needs Trust may preserve assets for use to improve the quality of their lives.

At times, disabled individuals sue defendants to recover damages for illness or injury, and their litigation attorneys seek to maintain the proceeds from personal injury suits in the face of staggering medical care costs. In these cases, medical expenses incurred by a plaintiff in a tort suit may force the disabled person to exhaust all personal resources and cause the person to seek public benefits such as Medicaid to help pay for necessary treatment. During the pendency of the litigation all costs of treatment will be covered by the Medicaid program. However, upon the receipt of the settlement/award, the client will lose Medicaid eligibility, and proceeds from the settlement may consumed by huge medical expenses.

In the scenarios above, the ultimate goal of the special needs trust planning is to lawfully secure ‘extras’ while maintaining Medicaid eligibility directly or by qualifying for Supplemental Security Income benefits.

Why is SSI important? SSI is a key to the more important benefits of the Medicaid program. Texas is one of 31 states known as "1634" states. This is the section of the Social Security Act that authorizes Texas to provide Medicaid eligibility to any recipient of SSI benefits. 42 U.S.C. sec. 1383c. A disabled person qualifying for SSI is said to be a “categorically needy” person and as such automatically qualifies for Medicaid benefits in the community. The determination of eligibility for SSI is made by the Social Security Administration and upon receiving eligibility for SSI the applicant is likewise eligible for Medicaid.

Who can help? For more information on Special Needs Trusts attorneys, consult: the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys at and the Academy of Special Needs Planners at


Special Kids & Special Needs Trusts

Parents of special needs kids are often not worried about themselves, but they are deeply concerned with how their disabled child may be cared for and maintained when they, the parents themselves, are gone. Sometimes these parents or grandparents will have spent their entire adult lives caring for the needs of a child or disabled adult who has been totally dependent upon them. Elderly individuals may be faced with not only their own catastrophic disease or illness, but they need an estate planning vehicle for providing for their disabled child or loved one.

In these cases, a Special Needs Trust can help. Often the disabled child will already be a recipient of SSI benefits and Medicaid because the disabled child was unable to work for a living due to the disabling condition. The disability may be such that the child will need extensive and costly medical treatment forever. Maintaining eligibility for the Medicaid benefits to cover these medical costs is critical.

Funds available to the parent for care and welfare of the child may be modest, and they might only provide for payment of the medical expenses for a short time. A Supplemental Needs Trust can provide funds for things that the public benefit programs will not provide as well as preserving Medicaid eligibility so that the money is not consumed by expensive medical care. What? Yes, that’s right. A properly drawn Special Needs Trust allows for the lawful qualification for public benefit programs, preservation of assets, and the distribution of these special ‘goodies’ from the trust that would enhance the quality of the disabled child or adult’s life. These ‘goodies’ could include: education, recreation, counseling, medical attention beyond the simple necessities of life. Specifically, things like summer camp, airline tickets for travel, electronic video games, or a television are the little luxuries and comforts that public benefits do not provide.

Special Needs Trusts are set up to comply with all state and federal law. Commonly, they are run by a family member, a trustee (like a bank), or a nonprofit pooled trust. Great care is taken in the choice of appropriate trustees to manage all trust assets, to deal with future replacement appointments, and to comply with all reporting and tax requirements. The trustee’s goal is to make lawful disbursements from the trust that will improve the quality of the beneficiary’s life without disqualifying the beneficiary from SSI or Medicaid. For more information on Special Needs Trusts, see the websites for: the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys at and the Academy of Special Needs Planners at


Monday, October 10, 2011

Important Medicare Dates & Resources

Medicare has new schedules for making coverage choices. Here’s what you need to know, and if you have questions, some resources for additional information:

October 1-14, 2011: During these two weeks, private insurers announce all benefit and premium information for their Part C Medicare Advantage and Part D Prescription Drug Plans for the coming year. This is your opportunity to see what might change with your current coverage and whether other policies might be better for you.

October 15-December 7, 2011: This is the Annual Election Period. It is the time each year you can change or enroll in new part C Medicare Advantage or Part D Prescription Drug Plan. If you make a change,new coverage will start January 1.

January 1-February 14, 2012: This is the Annual Disenrollment Period. During this time, you can disenroll from your Part C Medicare Advantage Plan and return to Original Medicare. If you choose to do so, you are allowed to choose a separate Medicare prescription drug plan at the same time. It becomes effective the first of the following month.

February 15-October 14, 2012: Most people cannot change their Medicare coverage during this “Lock-In” period. Exceptions include if you’ve:

Just turned 65
Moved out of your current plan’s service area
Lost your employer health coverage
Entered a nursing home
Involuntarily lost your prescription drug coverage.

Got questions? Here are a few resources:

Medicare at

State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIP) Every state offers one-on-one help from trained advisors. Find contact information at: or

Alamo Service Connection sponsored by Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG) or (210)477-3275, 1-800-960-5201

Children of Aging Parents (CAPS)

Center for Medicare Advocacy (CMA) or 1-860-456-7790


Saturday, October 8, 2011


Birthdays mean getting to drive, getting to vote, and getting to drink (legally). But after turning 21 and especially after turning 29 (over and over again), birthdays lose some of their luster. However, beginning at age 59, there are several key birthdays that can affect your legal status, taxes, health-care eligibility, and retirement benefits. Consider the gifts of time:

59: You may start taking penalty-free withdrawals from IRAs and qualified retirement plans—providing that certain conditions are met. Ordinary income taxes generally apply to these distributions. (Withdrawals taken prior to age 59 are generally subject to a 10 percent federal income tax penalty).

62: You are eligible to start collecting Social Security benefits, but your benefit will be reduced by up to 30 percent. To receive full benefits, you must wait until “full retirement age,” ranging from 65 to 67, depending upon the year that you were born.

65: You are eligible to enroll in Medicare. Medicare part A Hospital Insurance benefits are automatic for those eligible for Social Security. Part B benefits are voluntary and have a monthly premium. To get coverage as early as possible, enroll about two to three months before turning 65.

70: You should start taking minimum distributions from most tax-deferred retirement plans or face a 50 percent penalty on the amount that should have been withdrawn.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Autumn & Medicare Changes

With autumn come plans for Thanksgiving, the Christmas holidays, and the New Year. It is also time to reflect on critical decisions that may affect your health and finances.

For those aged 65 and above, Medicare's annual open enrollment period is coming up. If you are enrolled in Medicare, this is your chance to make unrestricted changes to coverage. Or you might leave your coverage the same, after a careful review of the pros and cons.

Do you want to stick with Original Medicare? Would you prefer to switch to a private Medicare Advantage Plan? If so, which one? Would you be better served by dropping your current drug plan and switching?

Be aware of these new developments:

The period to make insurance decisions has been moved to Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. (Last year, it was from Nov. 15 to Dec. 31).

Drug plan enrollees will get a 50% discount on brand name drugs when they hit the donut hole, or coverage gap. In 2012, your discount on generic drugs will go up to 14%, from 7% in 2011.

In 2012, Medicare Advantage plans will offer preventive care services for free.
Take away: Read your Annual Notice of Change, sent by your insurance company to your mail box at home. Read it over carefully. Plans make changes to benefits — and costs — every year. Understand the changes to your benefits and how much they will cost you.

You might need to do some additional research online or by calling your insurance company to see if your current plan still suits your needs.

GOT QUESTIONS? GET SOME FREE COUNSELING. Here are a few resources to start with:
Medicare:; 1-800-MEDICARE
Medicare Rights Center:; 1-800-333-4114
The State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP): A national program that offers one-on-one counseling and assistance to people with Medicare and their families.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Advanced Directives 101

Avoid being adrift in a medical emergency. Have Advance Directives in place.

What is an advance directive? Documents that help people communicate their wishes if they are unable to make wishes known due to illness or injury. Three types of advance directives: medical power of attorney; out-of-hospital Do Not Resuscitate Order; Directive to physicians, family or surrogate decision-makers.

A Medical Power of Attorney:
Gives another named person the authority to make medical decisions about health care issues if the individual is no longer capable of making them, personally.
Does not apply to voluntary inpatient psychiatric care or other medical procedures such as: convulsive treatment, psychosurgery or abortion. A physician must comply with the wishes stated in the medical power of attorney or allow or arrange for the transfer of the patient to another health provider who will comply.

An Out-of-hospital Do Not Resuscitate Order does the following:
Allows for a natural death with peace and dignity in an outpatient setting
Must use the state of Texas’s mandated form
Requires 2 witnesses or 2 physicians (read and follow the form’s instructions carefully)
Applies to CPR, transcutaneous pacing, defibrillation, advanced airway management, and artificial ventilation
Applies to emergency rooms, outpatient hospital care, physicians’ offices and clinics
Does not apply to inpatient care. The DNR must be rewritten.
What? A DNR could be effective in the Emergency Room; however, the same patient could be put on full code after admission to the hospital. A DNR does not translate to hospital care.

An Advanced Directive to Physicians or “Living Will” does the following:
Tells what kind and how much life-sustaining medical treatment an individual wishes in the event of a terminal condition or irreversible condition.

An advance directive may be revoked by the individual at any time, regardless of mental status or competency. Simply put, the individual may change his or her mind.

If there are no advance directives, Texas law allows for relatives to make medical decisions. Any such decision must be in keeping with the previously communicated wishes of the patient, if the wishes are known.

Make your wishes known. Contact an elder law attorney and have your estate planning documents prepared, so that your medical care decision-making will not be left to others, not knowing what you would have wanted, leaving them at sea during an emergency.


Texas Guardianships: The Steps

Guardianship is a legal process to protect an incapacitated individual from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Guardianship provides for the person's care and management of assets.

The individual who needs to be protected is called a "ward." The person who is court-appointed to assist the ward is called a "guardian." There are two types of guardians.

A Guardian of the Person takes care of the physical well-being of a ward, and a Guardian of the Estate takes care of a ward's property. A guardian is appointed by a judge after a legal proceeding. Often both a guardian of person and a guardian of estate are appointed, and this may be the same person.

The steps involved in becoming a court-appointed guardianship include:

Filing an application with the court requesting that a qualified guardian be appointed.

Serving the application to the proposed ward.

Notifying the proposed ward's relatives.

Obtaining a physician’s statement on nature and degree of the proposed ward's incapacity.

Holding a hearing before a judge to determine whether a guardianship is necessary.

Qualifying the guardian, taking an oath, and receiving letters of guardianship.

Guardianships may be contested by the ward or another individual.

Guardianships may be temporary, in an emergency. These are intense, quick, and limited guardianships.

Guardianships are often permanent. They are 'permanent,' but the court reviews them annually to safeguard the care and rights of the ward.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Texas Guardianships: The Cast of Characters

If someone files documents with the court asking to be made guardian, that person is the Applicant. The Applicant will be represented by an attorney during the legal proceedings at the courthouse.

After an application for guardianship is filed, the judge must appoint an attorney for the proposed Ward. This attorney is called an Attorney Ad Litem. The Attorney Ad Litem represents the wishes of the proposed Ward during the guardianship proceedings. The Attorney Ad Litem and the proposed Ward work together.

If the guardianship is uncontested, a hearing will be set, the court will hear the evidence, and the judge will appoint a qualified guardian.

If the guardianship is contested, the proceeding becomes more complex and time consuming. In contested situations, the question may not be whether the proposed Ward needs a guardian but who may serve? There may be more than one person applying. If so, each applicant has an attorney.

In these situations, the judge may appoint a Guardian Ad Litem to sort through the information and make a recommendation to the court. The job of the Guardian Ad Litem is to be a neutral fact-finder, investigating the situation and determining what would be in the proposed Ward's best interest. At court, the judge will listen to all sides. The judge will consider the Guardian Ad Litem's recommendation, weigh the preferences of the proposed Ward, and review the doctor's medical report before deciding whether a guardianship is appropriate. If so, the judge will appoint a guardian for the Ward.


Texas Guardianships: What are They?

Guardianship Basics
At times, a person may not be able to care for his or her own personal or financial needs. Texas law provides a remedy, guardianship, so that a person's affairs may be supervised by the court.

This is a legal action of last resort, which may be necessary for various reasons. It may be used when estate planning fails, when there is no estate planning documents at all, or it may be appropriate when others will not accept the power of legal documents.

A guardian is appointed by the court and legally stands in the shoes of the person under disability, the Ward.

After appointment, the guardian has the same rights and responsibilities as the ward. The guardian is not personally responsible but only serves as the Ward's agent.

Limited or General?
A guardianship may be general or limited, depending upon the severity of the disability. The court may only award the necessary powers to the guardian. No more, no less.

Person or Estate?
A guardianship may be of the person. This means that the guardian manages the Ward's personal affairs, such as medical or placement decisions. A guardianship may be of the estate, which means that the guardian manages the Ward's financial affairs. Many times, a guardianship is for person and estate, simultaneously.

Temporary or Permanent Guardianship?
A temporary guardianship may be sought when there is a threat of immediate harm to the Ward or the Ward's estate. A temporary guardianship is a response to an emergency. The temporary guardian will only be granted the necessary protective powers. Temporary guardianships must be reviewed later.

A permanent guardianship is granted to protect a Ward or his/her estate on a more lasting basis. A permanent guardianship is based on a doctor's medical evaluation of the Ward. There is a full hearing before a judge. If the judge orders a permanent guardianship, it is intended to last for the life of the ward, if statutory mandates are fulfilled by the guardian.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Pat Summit Diagnosed with Early-Onset Dementia, Plans to Continue Coaching Basketball

Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt has no plans to stop coaching despite being diagnosed with early onset dementia, according to her video on YouTube and Sports Illustrated:

Speaking from her home in Blount County, Tenn., with her dog Sadie sleeping on her lap, Summitt said she would not stop coaching. "I plan to continue to be your coach," Summit said. "For that reason I will be relying on my outstanding coaching staff like never before. We have always collaborated on every facet of Lady Vol Basketball; and now you will see [assistants] Holly Warlick, Mickie DeMoss and Dean Lockwood taking on more responsibility as their duties will change significantly. I love being your coach and the privilege to go to work every day with our outstanding Lady Vol student athletes."

The UT athletic department confirmed to that Summitt told her players about her early onset dementia in a team meeting on Tuesday. " Obviously, I realize I may have some limitations with this condition since there will be some good days and some bad days," Summitt said in letter posted on the university's website.

Summitt told The News Sentinel that she often felt low at times last season and second guessed some of her decisions. "There were some mornings I would wake up and think I don't even want to go in," Summitt said. "That didn't last long but it was like 'What's wrong with me? What's going on with me?' She told The Washington Post that "sometimes I draw blanks."

Her son, Tyler, a junior at Tennessee and a walk-on on the men's basketball team, told The News Sentinel, "Nobody accepts this. And there was anger. 'Why me?' was a question she asked more than once. But then, once she came to terms with it, she treated it like every other challenge she ever had, and is going to do everything she possibly can to keep her mind right and stay the coach."

Summitt said that she didn't consider retirement. She told The News Sentinel that she was encouraged after speaking with Dr. Ronald Petersen, the director of the Mayo Clinic's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center. "He's the one who told me you can coach as long as you want to coach and no one else had said anything like that to me,'' Summitt told the newspaper. "I haven't talked to him [lately] and I even thought about calling him sometime soon and telling him where I am with this. He was so positive [saying] 'You can work through this.'"

The paper reported that Summitt has formulated a plan that involves mental activities, such as reading and doing puzzles at night before going to sleep. Summitt told The News Sentinel that her maternal grandmother had suffered from severe dementia.

One of the icons of women's basketball, Summitt has led UT to eight national championships and 1,071 career victories, the all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball history, regardless of gender. This will be her 38th season coaching at the university. Summitt said she does not plan on speaking about her condition in the immediate days ahead.

"I've been honest and shared my health concerns with you and now we'll move forward to the business at hand -- coaching a great group of Lady Vols," she said. "For the time being, I hope you will respect my privacy regarding this matter."

Read more:


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Shine on Brightly

A friend called, recently, asking what she should do with a relative’s ashes. She had found them in a closet in a Tupperware container, much to her surprise. I was reminded of Section 711.002 of the Texas Health & Safety Code, which sets out the priority for possessing a decedent’s remains and the duty to inter them. The Code also provides the form for appointing an agent to control disposition of remains. A handy and oft overlooked estate planning document that everyone needs and is particularly important if there is a family squabble about who controls the remains, what shall be done with them (cremation vs. burial), or where they shall be placed (an urn vs. burial with a spouse? If there is more than one spouse, then who should be interred with whom?).

Chatting at the proverbial water cooler with elder lawyers at the probate court, they chimed in, spinning yarns of potentially unlawful situations detailing the blow-back of ashes scattered from a chartered airplane to the payment made to a captain of an ocean-going vessel with instructions to cast the urn into the depths, hundreds of miles out to sea.

However, the most beautiful and creative use of ashes may be found at the online fine art gallery, “Shine on Brightly,” selling the newest variation on the theme of memento mori. But “Shine on Brightly” offers not just the memorial jewelry of old but memorial art—fine art, that is, including dichroic glass pendants, handmade textiles, custom books, memorial painting, and urns fashioned of wood, glass, and hand-made ceramics. See

Like other estate planning documents, the appointment of an agent to control disposition of remains provides certainty and peace of mind. Let your loved ones know what you want and what you don’t want. Be sure to write it down and leave your estate plans in a safe location where they can be accessed easily and timely.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Top Documents a Woman Ought to Have...or Know Where to Find

In some ways, it's a woman's world. Women live longer than men. It's a fact. In the US, the average woman can expect to live to be 80.93 years old (compared to the average man whose life expectancy is 75.92 years). For more facts, see the World Fact Book compiled by the Central Intelligence Agency.

What this means is that women, being women, are caring for others--whether they are caring for ailing spouses, serving as court-appointed legal guardians for disabled wards, or handling the probate of estates for family members whom they have out lived. Women, due to their longevity, are also depending upon others for assistance, often relying upon caregivers during their incapacity and later, after death, to distribute their assets according to their wishes.

Smart women plan ahead, for themselves and for others. Here are the top documents a woman ought to have...or know where to find:

• Will
• Letter of instruction
• Trust documents
• Housing, land, and cemetery deeds
• Escrow mortgage accounts
• Proof of loans made
• Proof of debts owed
• Vehicle titles
• Stock certificates and savings bonds
• Brokerage accounts
• Partnership and corporate operating agreements
• Tax returns
• List of bank accounts
• List of all user names and passwords
• List of safe-deposit boxes, location, and keys
• Durable health-care power of attorney
• Authorization to release health care information (aka HIPAA release)
• Living will
• Do-not-resuscitate order (aka DNR)
• Personal and family medical history
• Life insurance policies
• Individual retirement accounts
• 401(k) accounts
• Pension documents
• Annuity contracts
• Marriage license
• Divorce papers
• Child support information/QDRO
• Discharge papers for veterans (DD Form 214 & SF-180)
• Birth Date, Place of Birth, Social Security Number

Organize the documents; safeguard them; share their location with trusted family members, so that if they become necessary, they can be found easily.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

America’s Silver Tsunami

For the first time in human history, people aged 65 and older will soon outnumber children under the age of five. The Twenty-first Century will be known for population aging worldwide due to declining fertility, improved health and longevity, which has swelled older populations dramatically.

In 2009, the worldwide population of people aged 60 and older was 680 million people, which translates to 11 percent of the population, spanning the globe. This group increased by 10.4 million since 2007, increasing 30,000 new members to that age group daily.

The new aging population contains three groups: the “young old,” ages 65-74; the “old,” ages 74-84; and the “oldest-old.” This first wave of Baby Boomers will reach full retirement age in 2011. From 2011 to 2031, 74 million Boomers will retire, which means that 10,000 new retirees will be added to the Social Security and Medicare rolls each day. The “old” are expected to have increased life expectancy and their numbers are projected to steadily increase. The “oldest-old” has a growth rate that is twice that of those over 65 and almost 4 times that for the total population. In the US, this group now represents 10 percent of the older population and is thought to more than triple from 5.7 million in 2010 to over 19 million by 2050.

Look at these statistics in another way. Compare them. The US contains more people aged 65 and older than the total population of Canada. Americans aged 65 and older outnumber the general populations of New York, London, and Moscow—all rolled into one.

What does it mean? Researchers believe that tomorrow’s elder population will be radically different from elders in the past. They will enjoy longer lives, better health, and more active lifestyles. Baby Boomers are expected to “age in place,” opting to stay at home for as long as possible, preserving their independence. These seniors are expected to seek out services and products that accommodate, sympathize and appeal to individuals of all ages and abilities. For more statistics, see


Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Lion's Share of Investor Education Resources: Texas State Securities Board Launches New Website

The Texas State Securities Board has launched a newly-updated and revised Investor Education Website, The new site is easier to navigate with up-to-date investor information and resources, financial calculators, and more. Using the website, individuals may get a background check on an investment professional, learn about unsuitable investments or life settlement contracts, file a complaint, and read the latest news and bulletins. Be sure to check out the "Resources" page for free educational books and brochures available for download.

The State Securities Board regulates the securities industry in Texas. The Agency registers securities offered or sold in Texas, oversees the firms and individuals selling securities or providing investment advice to Texas, and enforces the Securities Act through criminal, civil, and administrative actions. Through the Investor Education initiative, the agency helps Texans become informed investors. For more information on the agency, see the official website at:


Monday, June 13, 2011

Mickey Rooney Testifies Before Congress on Elder Abuse

Watch Mickey Rooney's testimony before Congress:


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hot Off the Press: Women's Health News

"The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don't want, drink what you don't like, and do what you'd druther not." Mark Twain

The Kaiser Family Foundation has released The Women's Health Care Chartbook: Key Findings from the Kaiser Women's Health Survey. Compared to Mark Twain, the Kaiser Family Foundation's recent report has a more comprehensive approach to health care resources, treatments, and costs. Specifically, the book provides information on women's health issues, wellness, insurance coverage, medical care costs, access to medical treatment, and family health care/services.

For more information, read the entire Chartbook at:


Law Enforcement Resources to Investigate Financial Exploitation

Worried about a Senior Citizen who might be the victim of a financial predator? More information may be found at the state and federal resources listed below.

Adult Protective Services, Texas


Texas State Securities Board

1-512-305-8300 (Austin telephone number; however, there are offices in major cities, so check with directory assistance)

Texas State Attorney General's Office


Internet Crime Complaint Center

Federal Bureau of Investigation

There are field offices in major cities: check with directory assistance

Federal Trade Commission, Bureau of Consumer Protection

There are field offices in major cities: check with directory assistance

To file a complaint against an entity in another country go to

U. S. Secret Service

There are field offices in major cities: check with directory assistance

For Texas, offices include:

AUSTIN 512-916-5103
DALLAS 972-868-3200
EL PASO 915-532-2144
HOUSTON 713-868-2299
LUBBOCK 806-472-7347
MCALLEN 956-994-0151
SAN ANTONIO 210-308-6220
TYLER 903-534-2933
WACO 254-741-0576


MetLife Releases Study of Financial Exploitation of the Elderly

June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Recently, MetLife Completed its Study of Financial Exploitation of the Elderly, which Revealed Grim Statistics

The recent MetLife study of financial exploitation of senior citizens confirms a disturbing trend: senior citizens are losing billions of dollars each year due to the predations of family, friends, neighbors, and businesses. MetLife’s research concludes that seniors are being bilked annually of more than $2.9 billion dollars, a 12 percent increase from the $2.6 billion estimated in 2008. Medicare and Medicaid fraud resulted in the highest average loss to victims ($38,263,136) followed by fraud by business and industry ($6,219,496), family, friends, and neighbors ($145,768), and fraud by strangers ($95,156).

The MetLife Executive Summary of the recent study reviewed newspaper articles and concluded that:

"Instances of fraud perpetrated by strangers comprised 51% of the articles. Reports of elder financial abuse by family, friends, and neighors came in second, with 34% of the news articles followed by reports of exploitation within the business sector (12%) and Medicare and Medicaid fraud (4%)...Women were nearly twice as likely to be victims of elder financial abuse as men. Most victims were between the ages of 80 and 89, lived alone, and required some level of help with either health care or home maintenance. In almost all of the cases, there existed a combination of tenuous, valued independence and observable vulnerability that merged in the lives of victims to optimize opportunities for abuse by every type of perpetrator — from the closest family members to professional criminals.

Nearly 60% of perpetrators were males. Most male perpetrators were between the ages of 30 and 59, while most of the female perpetrators were between the ages of 30 and 49. Perpetrators who were strangers often targeted victims with visible vulnerabilities (e.g., limited mobility, displays of confusion, or living alone).

The number of news articles increased and the character of elder financial abuse changed during the holidays. From November 2010 through January 2011, of the 1,128 articles on elder abuse identified through the newsfeeds, 354 (31%) concerned elder financial abuse. At least one-quarter (27%) of the cases reported were random, predominantly single-event crimes accounting for relatively small monetary rewards and characterized by a high level of brutality and disregard for human life. Reports of elder financial abuse perpetrated by strangers and by friends and families were very similar (47% vs. 45%, respectively).

Dollar losses over the holidays due to family, friend, and neighbor perpetrators were overall higher than any other category, likely owing to sheer numbers of instances, although the average number of dollars lost per individual instance was highest from business perpetrators. It is remarkable that the number of stranger cases comprise nearly 50% of all the holiday cases, comparable to the 51% April to June incidence rate.

In almost all instances reported in the newsfeeds, the goals of financial abuse perpetrators were achieved through deceit, threats, and emotional manipulation of the elder. In addition, physical and sexual violence frequently occurred within the vortex of elemental greed and disregard for the victim that surrounded financial abuse.

New research indicates that the instances of elder financial abuse are far higher than previously reported. In particular, a national study of 5,776 older adults found that the one-year prevalence for financial abuse by a family member was 5%. Further, a recent prevalence study covering the state of New York revealed that the highest rate of any type of elder mistreatment was financial abuse, with a rate of 41 per 1,000 (4%).

Elder financial abuse appears to fall into three types of crimes: occasion, desperation, and predation. Crimes of occasion or opportunity are incidents of financial abuse or exploitation that occur because the victim is merely in the way of what the perpetrator wants. Crimes of desperation are typically those in which family members or friends become so desperate for money that they will do whatever it takes to get it. Many of these family members are dependent on the elder relative for housing and money.

Finally, crimes of predation or occupation occur when trust is engendered for the specific intention of financial abuse later. A relationship is built, either through a bond of trust created though developing a relationship (romantic or otherwise) or as a trusted professional advisor, and then used to financially exploit the victim.

Passage of the Elder Justice Act in 2010 has the potential to bring to bear more attention to this crime and resources to better understand, educate about, and prevent elder financial abuse among the expanding older population. In addition, a new Office of Financial Protection for Older Americans was established in 2010 as part of the new Financial Regulatory Reform Bill. Congressional activity on the Elder Abuse Victims Act (S.462) and the expected introduction of the Senior Financial Empowerment Act indicate that Congressional attention will continue to be focused on the issue of elder financial abuse.

Elder financial abuse continues to decimate incomes both great and small, engenders health care inequities, fractures families, reduces available health care options, and increases rates of mental health issues among elders. Elder financial abuse invariably results in losses of human rights and dignity. Despite growing public awareness from a parade of high-profile financial abuse victims, it remains underreported, under-recognized, and under-prosecuted."

Read the entire MetLife study at:


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Record Keeping for Seniors

To shred, or not to shred: that is the question.

While USA Today’s recent “Managing Your Money” column advised that people shred documents, many Elder Law attorneys disagree. USA Today’s writer Sandra Block encouraged seniors to shred documents—in order to protect themselves from identity theft—but Medicaid can require five years of canceled checks and other financial records. In fact, failing to have required documentation could delay Medicaid nursing home eligibility. Medicaid can require five years of canceled checks and other financial documents to support an application for nursing home coverage. A more measured approach to shredding, which safeguards important financial data, can help ease the application process.

Myth: Canceled checks can be shredded after reconciling them with bank statements.

Reality: While that approach may work for IRS purposes, Medicaid may require that canceled checks be produced.

Why? Federal Medicaid law provides that gifts made within the lookback period are penalized. States set forth procedures to ferret out whether unlawful gifts were made. Some Medicaid agencies may require check copies, documenting all expenditures made within the five-year window.

With bank mergers, obtaining canceled checks can be a problem. Saving documents—not shredding them—is a more prudent practice, eliminating the uncertainty and difficulty in obtaining canceled checks and preventing unnecessary stress and expense.

The IRS is not the only government agency that requires documents. A senior who may need nursing home admission should keep financial records for the preceding five years. Other needed records vary according to state law, and the counsel of an elder law attorney could prevent problems later.


About Lisa C Smith

Attorney Lisa C. Smith believes that many legal problems can be resolved by working out agreements, legal documents, and creative solutions for businesses and families. Her goal is to provide quality legal representation with personal service and respect.

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